Some people play games to relax and unwind; others play games where everything’s trying to kill you, and you have to prevent them from doing so with nothing but a crude hammer and a bunch of edible flowers. To each their own, of course, and if you’re one of the latter type of people, then have we got a list for you!
We’re here to find out what the best survival games on Switch are, from the lovely, relatively peaceful Minecrafts of the world to the brutal, punishing games like The Flame in the Flood. Some will let you play with others in local or online co-op for a more collaborative survival experience, and some games require you to build a life in a hostile world with nothing but yourself for company.
A survival game is usually all about starting with nothing, slowly crafting tools and furniture, and tentatively exploring further into the world, where hosts of monsters, traps, and obstacles wait for you. If you manage to survive all of that, you’ve probably also got to contend with various metres like hunger, thirst, temperature, oxygen, and even sanity. And don’t go out at night, okay? Just… don’t.
So, without further ado, here are the best survival games on Nintendo Switch, in no particular order. Get ready for lots of crafting, and lots of dying. Good luck!
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Survival games are often about surviving in a specific environment — the unforgiving tundra, a post-apocalyptic bunker, or a wartime city, for example. Subnautica takes the unknown horrors of the deep blue and expands it into an entire ocean planet, where the fish hate you and things occasionally explode for no reason.
It’s slightly disappointing that Subnautica 1 and 2 don’t have multiplayer, but you’ll likely be too busy tussling with a particularly angry alien octopus to ever feel too lonely.
Difficulty options? Survival (health, oxygen, food and water metres), Freedom (health and oxygen metres), Hardcore (permadeath, no “low oxygen” warning), and Creative (no metres)
Can you have pets? Yes! You can put fish in a little tank, and hatch creature eggs
Publisher: Koch Media / Developer: 5 Lives Studios
So far, we’ve had deep water, spooky nightmare, cold Canada, and space as the various survival settings — but we haven’t had BOAT. Windbound is all about boat, and the silent protagonist, Kara, who’s trying to find her way back home.
Heavily influenced by Breath of the Wild, Windbound is a five-chapter story about exploring the ruins of an ancient civilisation, while trying to keep herself fed and improving her boat. Like many survival games, Windbound is procedurally-generated, which means you never know when — or if — you’ll find your next meal.
Difficulty options? Storyteller (easy), and Survivalist (hard)
Can you have pets? No [sad face]
Publisher: Klei Entertainment / Developer: Klei Entertainment
Don’t Starve gets straight to the point: the game is about not starving. That’s the easiest way to survive, after all. But with an added layer of horrible, terrible horror — think spiders, snakes, and the creeping fear that something, somewhere, is watching you — Don’t Starve is a little bit spookier than other survival games.
Don’t play this game if you’re afraid of the dark, because Don’t Starve will convince you of several reasons why your fear is entirely well-founded. Be aware, though, that the multiplayer mode, Don’t Starve Together, is not available on Switch.
Difficulty options? Hahahaha, no
Can you have pets? Sort of! You can raise pigs, rabbits, and birds
Publisher: Curve Digital / Developer: The Molasses Flood
If you like your survival games brutally hard, then The Flame in the Flood is the game for you. It’s easy to get sick, injured, or starve to death, and if you manage to get past all of those threats, then you’re likely to get mauled to death by a wolf or a bear.
What’s more, your exploration is somewhat limited — you’re on a raft, floating on a river, and whatever supplies you manage to grab will have to be pilfered from islands along the way. If you miss an island? You’re screwed, mate.
Difficulty options? Traveler (any equipment that the dog has won’t be lost on death, plus checkpoints), Survivalist (permadeath, harder to survive), Endless Mode (no plot, survive as long as possible)
Can you have pets? You have a dog from the start, named Aesop or Daisy
Publisher: Deep Silver / Developer: 11 Bit Studios
If you’re looking at this list and thinking, “all of these survival games don’t sound nearly depressing enough,” then you’ll probably really enjoy This War of Mine, which adds survival mechanics to a life lived under siege.
In Graznavia, a grim and gritty city in the midst of a war, you’ll be expected to raid bombed-out houses in order to find the resources you need to live. And often, those resources won’t just be out in the open for you to take — they’ll be the vital medicines of an elderly couple, or the last remaining food for a family with young children, and your need to survive will have to be balanced against, you know, your ability to bury your morals. Aren’t video games fun?
Difficulty options? Noooo
Can you have pets? You can have children, if that counts
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Much like Don’t Starve, The Long Dark is all about harsh, relentless Winters — except, where Don’t Starve eventually rolls back around to Spring, The Long Dark is set in a permanently wintery Canadian wilderness, where things never get warmer.
In the Story Mode, you’ll be trying to find your missing fellow traveller, Astrid, and unravelling the events that caused your plane to crash. If you play in Survival Mode instead, you’re just trying not to get eaten by bears. The story hasn’t finished, either — the five-episode Season One has another episode due in 2021, and the final episode some time after that.
Difficulty options? Survival has permadeath, and four experience settings: Pilgrim (forgiving), Voyageur (challenging), Stalker (punishing), and Interloper (impossibly hard). Story Mode will lead you along the path of the plot, and comes with three difficulty options, Green (forgiving), Capable (challenging), and Hardened (punishing). All difficulty options dictate things like wildlife aggression, resource spawning rates, and how easily you can freeze or starve to death
Can you have pets? No! You’ve hardly got enough to feed yourself!
Publisher: Forever Entertainment / Developer: Creepy Jar
You know how everyone who’s never visited Australia imagines that it’s full of spiders, snakes, scorpions and other deadly animals that will kill you the second you let your guard down? Well, Australia isn’t quite that scary, but Green Hell certainly is. Hope you like being poisoned, because you’re about to get poisoned a lot.
Green Hell’s twist on the survival genre is that, alongside your health and energy levels — which can be influenced by how well you sleep, plus whether or not that weird fruit you ate was a bad idea — is the Macroelement Scanner, which will track your nutrient intake. And surviving isn’t just about not dying, because you’re also in this unfriendly jungle to try to track down your missing wife, Mia, who’s probably going through a similar “should I eat this weird grub?” journey to you.
Multiplayer? Not on Switch
Difficulty options? A Walk in the Park (easy, no animal attacks), Welcome to the Jungle (balanced), King of the Jungle (hard, enemies are more hostile), and Green Hell (extremely hard, enemies are more hostile, permadeath is included, and you lose all your stuff when you die)
Can you have pets? Does it count if you have a parasite lodged in your skin?